Carl Rogers

by Jay Cross on March 21, 2010

Student-centered learning, that is, putting students first, is in stark contrast to existing establishment/teacher-centred lecturing and careerism. Student-centered learning is focused on the student’s needs, abilities, interests, and learning styles with the teacher as a facilitator of learning. This classroom teaching method acknowledges student voice as central to the learning experience for every learner. Teacher-centered learning has the teacher at its centre in an active role and students in a passive, receptive role. Student-centered learning requires students to be active, responsible participants in their own learning.

Traditionally, teachers direct the learning process and students assume a receptive role in their education. With the advent of progressive education in the 19th century, and the influence of psychologists, educators have largely replaced traditional curriculum approaches with “hands-on” activities and “group work”, which the child determines on his own what he wants to do in class. Key amongst these changes is the premise that students actively construct their own learning. Theorists like John Dewey, Jean Piaget, and Lev Vygotsky whose collective work focused on how students learn is primarily responsible for the move to student-centered learning. Carl Rogers’ ideas about the formation of the individual also contributed to student-centered learning. Student centered-learning means reversing the traditional teacher-centered understanding of the learning process and putting students at the centre of the learning process. Maria Montessori was also an influence in center-based learning, where preschool children learn through play.

From TIP

Example:

A person interested in becoming rich might seek out books or classes on ecomomics, investment, great financiers, banking, etc. Such an individual would perceive (and learn) any information provided on this subject in a much different fashion than a person who is assigned a reading or class.

Principles:

1. Significant learning takes place when the subject matter is relevant to the personal interests of the student

2. Learning which is threatening to the self (e.g., new attitudes or perspectives) are more easily assimilated when external threats are at a minimum

3. Learning proceeds faster when the threat to the self is low

4. Self-initiated learning is the most lasting and pervasive.

Also not in common with Freud is that Rogers’ theory is particularly simple — elegant even! The entire theory is built on a single “force of life” he calls the actualizing tendency. It can be defined as the built-in motivation present in every life-form to develop its potentials to the fullest extent possible. We’re not just talking about survival: Rogers believes that all creatures strive to make the very best of their existence. If they fail to do so, it is not for a lack of desire.

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